The one and only Ichiro is heading back to his second home tonight, as the Miami Marlins begin a three-game series in Seattle.
He is going to be showered with applause and will likely witness one of the longest standing ovations of a great player returning to their first MLB club.
Bedlam might better describe the scene when he steps into the box and does his signature sleeve tug as he prepares to put the ball in play.
Ichiro has meant so much to the people of Seattle since he joined the Mariners in 2001. It was tough to see him depart from the Pacific Northwest in 2012. But his return will bring back memories of the hysteria in which he induced, especially among Japanese fans that call the Seattle area their home.
The ’90s were a time when Seattle became a consistent contender on almost a yearly basis. Ichiro decided to sign with the Mariners in 2001 and lead them to an MLB-best 116-36 record in his rookie MLB season. Not only did he help rocket Seattle into World Series contention that year, but he also won the AL MVP and AL Rookie of the Year awards.
It was also the beginning of 10 consecutive seasons that he would be an AL All-Star and AL Gold Glove winner, while the Mariners struggled to find their relevance once again.
As baseball fans think about how much fun and excitement Ichiro brought to professional baseball, they cannot help but think about how hard it was to see him leave the confines of Safeco Field as his career seemed to be fading into the Seattle sunset.
He now returns with the Marlins and intends to play for several more years in hopes of staying relevant in a game that no longer has many boundaries.
Perhaps the only thing that could encapsulate how much he meant to Seattle fans is if the crowd were to shout “Okaerinasai” (Welcome home) in Japanese when he is introduced.
Until next time, Ichiro, welcome home.
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